Heidi, for the love of all you love, do not do another thing until you write. And definitely, most definitely, do not talk to him —or anyone, for that matter— until you write. And also? Permission not to believe any of your thoughts, especially the conclusions your mind jumps to when you’re anxious. And, under no circumstances make decisions right now, promise?

OK. But there’s so much and it’s all a-jumble and I don’t know where to start—

That’s OK. Just write it how it is. Just start. That is all.

OK. It’s like this…

~ * ~

There’s how I go all know-it-all on his ass when, thing is, I don’t really know. I mean, I do, but when I get all know-it-all, it’s not Heidi-that-knows, but a part of me that’s scared.

The me that knows is calm and clear, and knowing is not a big deal to her. She is strong, but she never needs to act strong. There’s no need for her to defend or argue, or be pushy and bossy about what she knows. After all, she’s in no hurry and she knows that deep down everything is OK. If she’s not happy with something, she simply moves on. Or changes it, no muss no fuss. Or goes home. Or simply leaves the room. Simply, is key.

But not so with know-it-all me, who really just knows how to sound like she knows. When really, she’s scared. And secretly she wants to cry. Like today, about how much she wanted him to hold her last night.

She’s also afraid she’ll mess up and do something stoopid. And believe me, she knows from stoopid.

And too? She is prone to hyperbole. Basically, she does whatever she thinks it takes to maintain connection. But, her estimation of things is always clouded by fear and the action that comes from that is, necessarily, conflict-ridden. And certainly not clear.

Why hello there, Sweetpea. Come in from the cold. You look like you could use a warm meal. Here… we’ve a place for you at the table. But first, let me get you a cozy sweater and some flannels. Oh my, your left leg is all wet… If I didn’t know better I’d say you’d been lying on your side in the snow!

Then there’s this other part who’s ashamed.

Now, you and I know that shame never helps —not really, although it means well. What shame actually does is make people go into hiding. And there, in hiding, things cannot get better. Know why? Because shame tends to hide in closets. Or attic crawl spaces. Or basements. And, know what all those places have in common? Yep, they’re cramped, for one. For two, there’s no fresh air. Nada. Zippo!

Hiding places of shame are stuffy and damp. Not to mention dark. And there, in the company of shame, one’s thoughts tend to go all merry-go-round. Minus the merry. And there’s a good reason minus-the-merry-go-rounds never made it into amusement parks. Ahem. So, in short: with shame you go round and round, minus the merry, in a cramped, dank, dark space.

Hiya! Come in. The more the, uh… merrier!

“Oh god! I got here as quick as I could. Know-it-all has been up to her shenanigans, and if I don’t take her into hiding quickly she’ll get all dramatic and mess everything up.


Yes! Heidi’s relationship, and her work, and her life… I’m so worried. I don’t ever want her to ruin things again. I don’t want Heidi to end up alone, and surely she will if I don’t stop this part.

Ahhh… you’re all out of breath and oh my but you look like you’ve had no sleep in days. Let’s run you a tub. There’s a lovely claw-foot porcelain bathtub upstairs and the towels will be warm from where they’re hanging over the stove by the time you’re done. And then, if you want, you can join us for dinner. We’d love to have you at our table. What do you say? Want to come in for a spell?

~ * ~

Tara Brach taught me to ask it like this:

If I weren’t feeling self-righteous, what would I be feeling?

Powerless. Vulnerable.

If I weren’t being defensive, what would I be feeling?

Scared. Afraid all the love will disappear.

~ * ~

The therapist lady said this:

“Extreme need and distress brings about extreme action.”

They’d been talking about That Thing from more than 20 years ago. That Thing with the repercussions. That Thing with the regret she sleeps with. That Thing she wants to understand.

It wasn’t like she woke up one day and said ‘today I will make this thing up.’ If anything, she was obsessive about telling the truth.

It wasn’t as if she wanted to hurt him. Although for sure, she sees now, she was angry. And anger was not acceptable then.

It wasn’t that she wanted to tear her family apart. It wasn’t that she wanted her parents to stop being missionaries and for her dad to get a job delivering spring water.

It wasn’t like that. And yet it was.

More on this can’t be written out loud, except for that bit. Not yet, at least. But there it is, somehow related to everything. She’s piecing together the clues. She’s the detective of her life. And, if nothing else, That Thing has made her plumb the depths of herself and look in the places where monsters tend to hide.

“Extreme need brings about extreme action.”

~ * ~

The bit that happened yesterday afternoon…

You handed me an olive branch. I couldn’t look at you —I felt shy and I was still licking my wounds from our fight, from being all defensive— but I nodded. It was my best yes to your branch.

Then you rubbed my back with potions. Then you wrapped me in the comforter and I fell asleep, I think. When I woke up you were outside shuffle-ing, as you say it, the remnants of another installment of Winter 2011: the year of the weekly snowstorm. And playing with Jennie, the Shepherd.

I looked out and felt myself soften then tighten again. Then I went to the kitchen.

Two eggs were in the pan sunny side up. A plate of guacamole on the counter. I knew you’d left them for me. I ate quietly, looking at you through the window.

Finally I bundled up and went out and the three of us —man, dog, and woman girl— went for a walk in the snow on the frozen lake.

I was quiet. I felt at the mercy of things very old and I didn’t want another round of reaction. I didn’t want to be defensive. I did not want to be self-righteous. And pretending never agreed with me. So pretty much I was quiet.

And then I felt like crying. So I told you to go ahead, that I wanted to take my time.

I watched you walk away… Jennie, stopping to look back at me every so often before turning back to catch up with you, her master.

And then I lay down in the snow. And I looked at the bare trees in the setting sun. And I thought of Mary Oliver and the line in that one poem about sleeping in the forest, about how the earth took her back so tenderly… And that’s what made me cry: the kindness of it.

Icicles and foggy heart

And I said, to no one in particular, “I just don’t know how to do it.” I was referring to relationships, of course.

Whoever I was talking to answered back, “Join the club.” They didn’t say it meanly, but just like that, matter-o’-factly, “Join the club.”

I went on, “But it’s hard and I’m no good at it. Pretty much I suck.”

And again, “Join the club.”

I lay there for a few minutes watching the last light playing on the treetops. A secret part of me wondered: Would you notice? Would Jennie ever run back for me?

~ * ~

She’s been around for a while. The me, that is, who wondered those things as I lay in the snow. For sure she was there 20 some years ago. She’s very young. And she so wants to be noticed. To know she matters. For kind eyes to see her. Really, I’m the only one that can take care of her, even though sometimes I wish you could. But it’s not your job. Good thing about My Inner Council. They’re a big help. I wish I’d had them 20 years ago.

Um, excuse us, Sweetheart, but we were there.

You were?


Well then why the hell ever did you not speak up! Whyever did you not let me know? I could have used a little help, thankyouverymuch.

Aww, Sweetie, you couldn’t yet see us. You didn’t know how to look inside. And you couldn’t hear us. You really didn’t know how to listen yet, remember? You had no idea. It wasn’t until you read Letters to a Young Poet that day in the bookstore that things started to shift a wee bit. You glimpsed inside, and you got curious. And even though Rilke had written those letters a century before to a young man in the army, he might as well have written them to you. He described the world inside. He got things you’d never talked about with anyone. And he told you about the rooms with the locked doors. And to not worry so much about trying to pry them open. And he told you to love the questions. What a notion that was. And what a relief, remember? Because being desperate for answers when the answers aren’t ready to be understood can take its toll on a girl.

Wait. Rilke is on My Inner Council, too?

You should know. We’re your Council.

But why didn’t you tell me I could call on you for help!

Oh, Sweetie. Remember how literal you were? I mean, you still believed in an actual lake-of-fire hell. And in a heaven with streets of gold and mansions floating in clouds.

True enough.

But we were there.

When else?

Remember the Morning Glories?

Of course. But they were for realz, flesh and blood ladies. Not just inside.

Oh Sweetheart, inside, outside: same, same. You’ll see. You already are.

~ * ~

Postscript. Last night:

You: “I took a picture of you earlier.”

Me: “When?”

You: “You were lying in the snow. I thought you might want to remember.”

~ * ~

Comment Zen:

I would love your company. Pull up a chair, there’s always room for one more at the table. Bring your parts, your me’s, too, if you want. And love notes. And mugs of magical spirits. And stories or thoughts of how you can relate. And feel free to pull out your ukulele. But please, leave your shoulds at the door. Here’s some cozy slippers for while you’re here. Thanks for stopping by.

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